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Movie Review: "Silent Hill"--and a brief diatribe about the horror genre in general

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Movie Review: "Silent Hill"--and a brief diatribe about the horror genre in general

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By request of my sister, who I talked to on the phone today (*squees!*), I am posting this movie review that was in fact written two weeks ago. I wrote it in pieces, being too busy to chug it all out in one fell swoop, but wanted to get my thoughts on paper. Those of you who know my writing know that I have a penchant for horror and darkfic, so scary stories and scary movies are my proverbial bread and butter. Understanding what makes them scary (or not)...that's tough. Fear and horror are often such personal experiences, yet there are some buttons just begging to be pushed. And that is why I write horror reviews, this one in particular. I simply never bothered to unlock it from p-lock. Well, Sharon was curious, and I told her that I'd post it for her.

Well, it's been a while since I've done one of these. *stretches fingers, cracks knuckles*

This weekend, being as we had an unexpected weekend "off," Bobby and I indulged in quite a bit of movie-watching. First of all, we saw two excellent ones: Downfall, a German movie with English subtitles about the last days of Hitler's regime (which gave us both a new appreciation for how cool ranting sounds in German; you just can't get the same effect in English!) and Paradise Now, in Arabic with English subtitles (because we're both hopelessly narrow in terms of language) about two Palestinian suicide bombers on a "mission" in Tel Aviv. I highly recommend them both, but I am not going to review them here, as it always feels rather pointless to review movies that I really like. I begin to sound like a first grader's book report: "I liked this and I liked that." Bleh.

Also, I am not fully comfortable working in that genre. Do not let some of my tastes in movies fool you: When it comes to fantasy and horror, I am hopelessly shallow. I love the campy, cliched megaplex tripe that masquerades under the guise of "horror." (Though I often want to laugh than scream.) Really, I don't know why I enjoy them so much. Bobby and I frequently rent independent horror films where we spend much of the movie debunking the premise on which the movie is built* or giggling at the atrocious acting. But it is a bona fide guilty pleasure that we both share. (On our last foray at Blockbuster, I found a movie called Mr. Hell. Oh yeah. But that one looks so good it will have to wait for Halloween.)

* For example, we recently rented one called (I think) Shallow Ground where the premise for seeking the killer was based off of an EMT pulling out her science kit microscope that reminds me of the one I had when I was eight years old and still wanted to be an entomologist and "studying" a blood sample. After peering in the microscope for three seconds, she gasped and said, "There's at least the blood of three people here!" My, my what a small town that must be that can afford a microscope that does DNA testing too! And so fast! (Owww...the bad!science! It burns!)

Before I go any further, though, there is something that I want outside the cut: Sharon, do not see this movie. There are some very squicky fire/burning scenes that you will not like. Others on flist, if you do not like fire and burning, do not see this movie either. You will be squicked.

And you have been warned. Now onto the review, which contains potential spoilers. But I'll try to keep this to a minimum. (And isn't knowing that a movie is "horror," in itself, kind of a spoiler?)

The movie is based off of a video game, but all I know of the game is what I have read off of the back of the box while waiting for Bobby and Potter to browse in Electronics Boutique. And so I went into it with little knowledge as to the premise of the game or its purpose or its resolution.

The movie begins with a little girl (Sharon) who is having nightmares and sleepingwalking (dangerously, I might add, near cliffs) and awakens screaming the name "Silent Hill!" Silent Hill, her parents discover, is a mountain town in West Virginia that was ravaged by fire some years prior and has since been deserted because of the coal fires still burning underground. Naturally, lots of people died in presumably awful ways; naturally, there is a little more to the fire than what the police are willing to report.

So Mum does the logical thing and takes Sharon to Silent Hill to "confront her demons," so to speak. Without going into great detail, Mum wakes up after a car wreck just outside of Silent Hill. Sharon is missing. And a lady-cop named Cybil who had pursued the errant pair is embroiled in the trouble with them.

I approach horror movies from a couple of standpoints. First, atmosphere: How scary does the movie feel? Does it have a good creepy vibe or even terrifying vibe going? And of course, plot, most often unoriginal and cliche, but every now and then you get one built on a premise (White Noise and The Mothman Prophecies come first to mind) that is original and engaging and keeps you guessing throughout. Of course, Dawn can't watch a movie without analyzing the characters, and despite the fact that it's "genre," empathetic characters can still make an otherwise bland movie worth watching.

I don't count special effects. Why? Because eye-candy only amuses me for so long (I dissociated through much of the Helm's Deep battle in The Two Towers), and in this modern age, special effects have really become a dime a dozen and rather unremarkable. But for the benefit of those who do go to movies to say, "Oh, cool!" at special effects, I will say that I found the SE in Silent Hill to be quite good for one (like me) who pays very little attention to these sorts of things.

So, if I could say a few things to the director of Silent Hill....

Y'all did okay on the atmosphere. Actually, I found the horror elements to be quite good. A girl can only take so many skulls or shambling corpses or big spiders. (Although there were some critters like the scarabs in The Mummy series, for those of you who have seen that. *blushes and admits to seeing them all, even the one with The Rock in it*) The critters were humanoid and just...twisted. Really. They were quite scary in a surprisingly profound way. Too many horror movies rely on jump-out-and-go-boo! tactics or sheer squick. But these things...just scary.

The environment was scary too: lots of chainlink fence (which gives the tantalizing view of escape even as it holds one trapped, rattling it desperately) and barbed wire and when that siren went off...*shudders* (Now that could just be a lingering post-traumatic reaction from War of the Worlds....) It also didn't help that Silent Hill very closely resembled historic Ellicott City.

However....

A movie is not a video game.

In a video game, you have the dramatic music...the cut away to the creatures shambling down the hall or over the hill...and you grip your controller and prepare to either run or kick ass.

I can't help but feel that encounters in movies should be less...contained. It strikes me as unbelievable that certain creatures would exist only in certain rooms. They would not pervade the town. They would not appear in multiple places. Only that once...and if you defeat them or otherwise escape, you know you're gonna be okay.

Just...no.

Unfortunately, this movie gave that impression. Aside from the "fiend" (an impressive fellow, indeed, with a massive knife and a pointy-type helmet that defies description at the moment), the critters faced by the protagonist appeared only once in settings that, sadly, are best described as "video game."

I am sure that fans of the game were elbowing each other and going, "OMG it's a [fill in the blank with critter name]!" Bobby and I did that at Resident Evil, having played all of the games before seeing the movie. "OMG, it's a licker! Flippin' sweet!" But for a movie, it feels false.

Now for the plot: If you're going to introduce a character, please use him.

Now we all love Sean Bean in movies. He's Boromir, after all, and invokes pleasant memories of those heady times when the LotR trilogy was still in the theaters. But really. The guy appeared, went to Silent Hill, even engaged in a little light B&E to discover the truth. Then got put into his place by a cop, threw up his hands, and went home. WTF?

Sadly, Sean Bean's parts in the movie were a distraction, a body stuck up in front of the screen who you're stuck trying to peer around to see more of the action in Silent Hill.

Also, lead characters need not be Everyman. In other words: bland. I really felt no empathy for the lead character (whose name I can't even remember at the moment) nor her vapid-eyed, scary-picture-drawing daughter. The lady-cop was probably the best character, although someone needs to tell them that lady-cops--even those who scoot about on motorcycles--do not need to wear leather hotpants.

But seriously, I would love to see in a movie for once someone who runs like a scared little girl at the sight of the guy dragging the ginormous knife, peeing her pants and huddling under furniture, rather than bravely pursuing The Truth At All Costs. I'd love to see a flawed character, instead of one with a pie-eyed stare breathing, "She's adopted, but I knew I was her mother the moment I laid eyes on her." Blech.

(I'd be huddling under the furniture and peeing my pants, that's for sure!)

The premise of the story: interesting but not entirely original. Witch-burning and religious fanaticism are a bit overdone, in my humblest of humble opinions. (Pardon the bad pun, please!) And The Truth was revealed a little awkwardly, in my authorial opinion: I do not generally like to be going idly along and then thrown into a chunk of backstory the size of Texas. I prefer my backstory a bit more...insidious. It feels less an interruption, less forced. Can I think of a better way? Not at the moment, no, but I think that's something worth spending more time as a writer, to introduce the audience to the full scope of the story rather than lobbing it all on us at one time like a ladleful of cafeteria mashed 'taters. Let the audience find their own epiphany.

Also, I must add--and I'm a blood-phobic and do have a squick-quotient, so I think I have a right--that horror writers, if they're willing to torture their characters first, really need to get a better grip on death.

Nothing evokes giggles like the old-school slasher film where the girl gets stabbed in the boob and keels over and dies. Not that simple folks.

Nor does someone being burned at the stake simply shrivel up, roll her eyes back in her head, and go out like a candle. (Bad pun again...sorry!) If you're going to show the horrifying, skin-peeling detail, at least don't wimp out on the actual death. Or--if you're afraid of taking it too far--cut away and leave it do the audience's imagination. But don't make us believe that death by burning is a twenty-second ordeal.

(Also, I must confess, that the mob hording around the protagonists and screaming, "She's a witch! Burn her! Burn her!" evoked much sniggering and thoughts about Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"And what else do we burn besides witches?"

"MORE WITCHES!!!")

Despite picking apart aspects of this movie, the atmosphere of it really made up for its shortcomings. The horror was imaginative and did not rely so heavily as others in the genre on cheap ploys and fear tactics. It was squicky in a bearable way. But it certainly had its shortcomings, as do most movies in the genre.

I give it 2.5 Keebler E.L. Fudge "Elves Exist" cookies out of four. Which is actually a good rating for a horror movie.

Now, because I like to discuss writing and I know that some of you like to discuss writing, I will ask: What scares you in fiction? It could be movies or stories...but I think that we all have that one thing that frightens the bejesus out of us. So how did that writer do it? How can we--as authors--write convincing horror stories or scary scenes when we need to?

For me, I will admit, it is squicky, prolonged painful deaths and torture. Yes, this from the girl who saw Hostel and went for milkshakes afterward. This does not mean that I do not watch such things (I do), but there are certainly times when I must invoke the trick of looking just above the screen so as not to really see. (Anything involving eyes or gruesome wounds is likely to bother me.) Also, I tend to research these movies under the premise of "reading reviews" in order to know all of the gimmicks before I go into the theater. I did this with Hostel; I did this with Saw 1. (Saw 2--being as Saw 1 did not bother me--I didn't see the point of such rigmarole.)

I remember "reading reviews" about Hostel before going to see it (on opening night, yes), and one reviewer pointed out that horror movies have taken a sinister turn from the portrayal of either neat-'n'-clean death (see earlier comment of fatal boob-stabbing) or off-screen death (you know, when your eviscerated friend drops out of the closet when you open it) to gruesome, tortuous death. And the big horror blockbusters certainly underscore this trend: the Saw movies, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and--perhaps most egregiously--Hostel. This reviewer posited that we have grown bored of dying characters. We no longer empathize. We no longer watch the movie with our feet squarely in the character's shoes as she is nearly stabbed in the head while screaming mild expletives at the car that won't start. He believed that we watch movies like Saw and Hostel, though, while imagining ourselves in the situations presented, being forced to crawl through razor wire or being threatened with power tools and the like.

I think that regardless of whether one agrees with this reviewer's exact point, it is important to note that empathy is the biggest key to making horror scary. When you empathize with a character, it is not a far leap to experiencing the horror as the character does...and lamenting his/her maiming or death almost as we would that of a friend.

Which is why movies like Silent Hill tick me off in choosing a heroic, infallable Everywoman for a protagonist instead of some flawed, chain-smoking, hiding-in-a-garbage-dumpster sinner with bad hair like the rest of us. The division between Good and Evil was too clean in Silent Hill...up to the ending, that is. Witch-hunters: Evil. Mommy-trying-to-save-persecuted-daughter-from-witch-hunters: Good. Never did the protagonist show signs of flagging, of giving in or succumbing to fear, and I really believe that this is one of the biggest pitfalls of this genre.

When I was young, I thought that Stephen King was the Best Author Evah (tm), and I still enjoy his writing to this day. (Although the man has an annoying habit for conjuring peevishly anticlimatic and slightly cheesy endings. A giant spider at the end of It? After all that stuff with clowns and giant sparrows and crawling through the sewers?? C'mon!) One of the reasons that I think his work scares so many people and is so hugely popular is because of his characters: His characters are the most imperfect slobs that you can find on this side of Alabamie. (No offense to Alabamie natives, by the way; my grandmaw was from Alabamie, so I can assure you that I'm just teasing.) His stories are really about how ordinary folks react to extraordinary events. As I've said, I've never found anything exceptionally unique about his stories. The plotlines focus on elements that have been part of our collective fears for...ever? Rabid dogs, giant spiders, psychotic cars...it's not like he's creating fluffy-bunny phobias here, although lots of kids will credit their fear of clowns to It. (Still, a fear of clowns is pretty ubiquitous in small children...and some adults. My sister was afraid of clowns when we were small, and It had nothing to do with her phobia.) Another author I read voraciously in the middle-school years was Dean Koontz, and while I embraced his stories for the intricate plots involving spy satellites and the chemical composition of Vaseline, it's King's novels that have stuck with me ten years later, and while Koontz certainly uses horror elements, few of his stories are actually scary.

But Koontz more often that not uses ex-cop heroes on a mission to Do Good (tm). My favorites of his stories--Watchers and Twilight Eyes being my absolutes--use more sympathetic characters.

I think that once you get a reader to willingly hop into your character's shoes and peer at the world through his/her eyes, you're halfway to a scary story. Now all you need to do is scare the character...and the reader will be scared too.

Of course, I know it is not that easy. I love to write horror and live with the feeling that 90% of the time, I fail. It's so often written off as a cheap genre because 98% of what it has to offer is complete bunk, but that one story that makes the reader want to simlutaneously turn the page and close the book and hide at the same time proves that it can be done, it's just a difficult endeavor.

I am interested to know, for those of you with an interest in such things: What horror tactics (movie or book) have worked for you in the past? Do you have a secret for writing horror in your own stories? Or any definite no-no's? I'm interested to know, so leave as short, long, rambly, or irrelevant comments as you'd like.
  • For Eru's sake, I saw 'Silent Hill' 3 weeks ago and forgot to mention it! I was disappointed in Sean Bean's part, but not at the ending where he answers the door in white T-shirt and barefoot. *thud*

    I thought that the beginning and end of the film were very good and very effective, and it did have some other brilliant moments. But what spoiled it for me was the corny bits that you pointed out--the mother-daughter bullshit--and some scenes that could have been made to be scary weren't--like the first time the mom sees the other wraith-like 'mom'--she just sort of appeared, without any dramatic effect. It should have been heart-stopping, but wasn't. I thought the burning scenes were very good but perhaps a bit over-the-top.

    Anyway, what I find scariest in horror films are two things:

    1. When the villain (or monster, or whatever) turns out to be someone you least expected. If it's well done, it's very effective. I'm thinking of something like "Mindhunters" with Christian Slater and Jonny Lee Miller, or "Enduring Love" with Daniel Craig, where someone does something horribly unexpected after the film has kept you on edge with a few well-placed disturbing scenes before the terrifying end.

    2. When there's a genuine air of mystery and suspense and the viewer is just 'waiting' for the next terrible thing to happen. Usually the terrible events escalate in their intensity so each one is more terrifying than the last. I'm thinking of all the horror movies that have scared me that way in the past: The Exorcist, Candyman, The Ring, Saw.

    Others that I have found effectively scary do it through atmosphere more so than anything else. In this category I could place Interview With A Vampire, the recent Dracula trilogy by Wes Craven and The Village (although I guessed the 'surprise' in The Village before the end--bummer--I hate it when I do that!

    So I hope that is helpful. Oh! Damn! I forgot to write about what it is in books I have read that have scared the bejesus out of me. I'll do that in another post later. A lot of it, though, is probably the same as film. Atmosphere is a big thing in books and I think escalating tension as well, brought on by bigger, more terrifying events as the story moves along. And anything unexpectedly terrifying that comes at you suddenly is always good too. I agree with you about Stephen King. I think I read every one of his books until recent years. One of the scariest stories I ever read was "Who Goes There?" and I can't remember the author now--some famous science fiction writer--ARGHHH! Again, that had to do with a 'beast' infiltrating from within. They made a movie out of it with Kurt Russell many years ago called 'The Thing'. Okay.
    • The movie that made me *heart* Sean Bean was not LotR--would you believe it?--but North Country where his wife is sick with Lou Gherigs (and I know I spelled that wrong, bah!) and I think of how despondent he must be but he stays so hopeful for her, like when he holds her drink for her because her hands are useless.... *wubbles*

      Okay, that was totally OT, but I'm better now. :^P

      Anyway, I thought Silent Hill's saving grace, really, was the atmosphere. There weren't any rotting skulls or giant spiders; the critters were thoroughly original...but the story, imho, is not so original. And the characters kind of got on my nerves. The characters I was really interested in--the wraith-like mom, for instance--we didn't see too much of. And I'm thoroughly weary of pie-eyed goody-two-shoes protagonists. *sigh*

      I haven't seen any of the movies you listed in Point the First, but I also appreciate a well done twist. I was floored by Sixth Sense when the realization came that Bruce Willis' character was already dead. That's probably the most surprised I've been by a twist, and I was also quite young when I saw that movie. Now, I've become a cynic and spend most of my time suspecting everyone, so twists tend not to work. But what I wouldn't give for another Sixth Sense moment!

      I have, however, seen all of the movies in Point the Second! Whee! Anyway, I thought that The Ring did a nice job with the atmosphere. (But, Eru, I hated that part when the horse jumped off the boat and got hacked up in the propeller! *shudder*) Exorcist also deserves it's place as a classic for a good reason, imho. Saw was spoiled for me in part because I intentionally read spoiler reviews but I totally did not expect the dead guy to get up! Of course, my first thought when he did--being an overanalytical geek who can never take things at face value--was to think that I don't think it's humanly possible to lie completely motionless on a cold cement floor for that long of a time. There are pain neurons in the joints to prevent just that. *rolls eyes at self*

      Perhaps another good example of such a movie (that worked for me as Saw did not) is The Bone Collector, which is a lot like Saw in a way: a cop chasing a killer murdering people in uniquely gruesome ways and leaving clues. Each clue points to the next murder, and if it's solved in time, the cops have the chance to save the victim.

      (Plus, it has Denzel Washington in it, and Felak *hearts* Denzel! :^D)

      But they come so close to solving the clues, and there's this constant time pressure, and it's hard not to put oneself in the place of the investigators, working against the clock, wondering if they're going to solve the puzzle in time or are we going to witness something horribly gruesome? (And they fail a handful of times before eventual success.) The suspense is killer.

      I'm a sucker for M. Night's movies, despite the fact that he's earning criticism for tricking viewers too much. More so than The Village, I love The Sixth Sense and Signs still gives me goosebumps. He's got a new one coming out called something like The Lady in the Water and I'm sure Bobby and I will be right alongside the other suckers seeing it on opening night. ;)
      • The movie that made me *heart* Sean Bean was not LotR--would you believe it?--but North Country where his wife is sick with Lou Gherigs (and I know I spelled that wrong, bah!) and I think of how despondent he must be but he stays so hopeful for her, like when he holds her drink for her because her hands are useless.... *wubbles*

        Gah! I know! OMG he was the most awesomest husband!

        I haven't seen any of the movies you listed in Point the First, but I also appreciate a well done twist. I was floored by Sixth Sense when the realization came that Bruce Willis' character was already dead. That's probably the most surprised I've been by a twist, and I was also quite young when I saw that movie. Now, I've become a cynic and spend most of my time suspecting everyone, so twists tend not to work. But what I wouldn't give for another Sixth Sense moment!

        Oh yeah! Sixth Sense! I heart Sixth Sense! And I heart M. Night too! I loved The Village even though I guessed the 'surprise'. I was disappointed in 'Signs' because I really wanted the aliens to attack Earth! (Silly Jenni.) But that's all down to M. Night's ability to make his films go on and on and on and never end. I can't get enough of M. Night. I'm sure I'll be at the premiere of The Lady in the Water too!

        Perhaps another good example of such a movie (that worked for me as Saw did not) is The Bone Collector, which is a lot like Saw in a way: a cop chasing a killer murdering people in uniquely gruesome ways and leaving clues. Each clue points to the next murder, and if it's solved in time, the cops have the chance to save the victim.

        (Plus, it has Denzel Washington in it, and Felak *hearts* Denzel! :^D)


        I forgot about Bone Collector! Oh yeah, I loved that movie. (And *sob* wasn't it Chris Reeve's last film?) And Jenni hearts Denzel too!

        I think you should see Mindhunters, because it has elements of Bone Collector in it and some very, very scary moments that I thought were really well done. It has LL Cool J in it too, and he's so cute! And Val Kilmer too!

        You know, I could go on talking about horror movies and books forever. *sigh*






        • Oh! Gah! I meant above NOT that M. Night's films go on and on, but that you WANT them to go on and on!
  • On Downfall, here's an extra note that impressed me: Bruno Ganz absolutely nailed Hitler. He got the whole thing -- all the twitchy little mannerisms, the way of walking, brilliant. And Juno will probably be able to pinpoint this better than me, since she can hear this better, but I think he got the accent almost perfectly. Hitler, who was from Austria, never really got rid of the country-bumpkin accent, and that's part of what makes his recorded speeches so hard to understand (that, and the fact that he shrieks and shouts and spit flies from his mouth with rage). But it's a distinctive accent, and I think Ganz got it pretty well. Juno?

    Maybe I haven't been watching the right kind of horror movies, or read the right kind of horror novels, but I've never found them especially terrifying. I think I might have found The Blair Witch Project scarier if the camerawork hadn't given me motion sickness, though. And the fact that the three characters were so mind-numbingly stoooopid.

    Carrie (DePalma's version) is a brilliant psychodrama, but I wouldn't call it a horror movie, because the terror comes from the characters, not the situation. The Exorcist was massively cool, but I think it depends on surprise, and if you watch it after 1974, you kind of know most of the plot by osmosis already. The Omen is more funny than scary. The original Halloween is kind of tense, but I think it depends too much on surprise! the body falls out of the cabinet to be nail-chewingly scary.

    The scariest moment I've ever seen in a movie? It was about halfway through The Pianist:

    Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is a Polish Jewish concert pianist who, by sheer luck, has escaped the Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto, and is hiding out. If he is caught, he will either be shot on sight or taken to Auschwitz. He's with the underground, who provide him with "safe" apartments that are officially unoccupied. If anyone figures out he's living in them, he's toast. He depends on them for everything, cannot leave, and cannot make a sound. He loses the first apartment when, weakened by lack of food, he accidentally knocks over a whole cabinet of dishes.

    So his friends find him a second apartment, nicer than the first. As they show him inside, you notice that. . . there's a piano in the room. Ohshit, you think. The friend explains that this apartment is across the street from Nazi headquarters. They won't think to look for a Jew there -- probably -- but if he's caught, he's toast. And he must be very, very quiet. The friend leaves. Szpilman, a concert pianist who hasn't played the piano in about three years, turns around and stares at the piano in the apartment.

    The audience goes ohshit ohshit ohshit don't play it Wladek they'll hear you!

    Szpilman very slowly raises the lid, takes off the dust cover, adjust the seats, sits down. The orchestral introduction to Chopin's Grand March and Polonaise sounds. Szpilman raises his hands. Cut to a portrait shot of Adrien Brody as the piano comes in right on cue. The audience has a collective heart attack. After a few seconds, the camera cuts to show that Szpilman's hands are hovering two inches above the keys. The audience wibbles with relief that the music really is all in his head.
    • On Downfall, here's an extra note that impressed me: Bruno Ganz absolutely nailed Hitler.

      Totally! I noticed this too and thought that he really brought the character to life. I was also impressed--or depressed maybe?--by how naturally the movie portrayed the kind of blind loyalty that people seemed to have to him. Those sorts of things usually don't feel believable to me, but this one did.

      Maybe I haven't been watching the right kind of horror movies, or read the right kind of horror novels, but I've never found them especially terrifying.

      I tend to feel noticeable anxiety during effective horror movies, but very few leave a lasting "OMG, I'm scared!" impression after leaving the theater. Certain things I will recall as being particularly tense or creepy, but it's hard to experience it again after seeing it the first time.

      The only horror movie I can think of offhand that left a lasting impression was White Noise because there's a scene where the protagonist leaves his girl-friend in a bedroom and goes to use the loo. While he's in there, the three demonic ghosts whip by, and when he comes out, his friend is standing on the balcony railing and about to take a dive.

      That night, I woke up in the middle of the night and went to the loo. While I was there, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd go back into the bedroom and find Bobby about to dive out the window. I hurried because of that. Stupid, probably, but true.

      Do you generally like horror movies? I think that certain genres simply don't effect certain people. For example, I generally despise action movies. So action movies that are billed as being "fast-paced" or "tense" I generally find stupid, cliched, and boring. Someone out there, though, is going, "Golly gee, five explosions in a minute! A gunfight between one cop and 15 mobsters where the cop gets not a single bullet but takes down every mobster! Yeehaw!" Me...I'm rolling my eyes. The elements that make others love that genre awaken the cynical critic in me like no other.

      I think I might have found The Blair Witch Project scarier if the camerawork hadn't given me motion sickness, though.

      I found The Blair Witch Project a disappointment. So many people were "OMG! It's so scary! I couldn't sleep! I couldn't walk past the woods on my way out of the theatre!" Of course, growing up in the country, woods scare me about as much as fluffy bunnies. I thought the scariest part of that movie was watching the girl trying to cross a creek on a log because I generally will not walk across logs while hiking. I'll slosh through the water first. I must shake my head at scary movies where hiking tactics form the crux of anxiety for me.

      The scariest moment I've ever seen in a movie? It was about halfway through The Pianist:

      I saw that movie when it first came out on DVD. I vaguely remember that scene, but I see so many movies that they all blend together after a while. But I can see how that sort of tension would be frightening, especially given the reality of his circumstances.
      • I like 1970s horror movies best. The special effects are at their most creative, because directors can imagine the possibilities that animation might provide, but horror movie budgets won't allow them to use it. So they have to rig up actual physical effects to match the fantastic ones in their heads. And the movies tend to be character- and psychologically-based for that reason.

        The thing about The Blair Witch Project that got me, aside from the motion sickness, was the utter idiocy of the characters, getting hopelessly lost in the endless, vast, dark forests of. . . Maryland. If they'd had the sense to pick one direction and follow it, or, even better, to sit still, they'd have been out of danger in under a day. A horror movie loses when all its characters win Darwin Awards.
        • What do you mean? We Marylanders have very imposing forests! :^D

          It's actually hard to find a place to hike in Maryland where one can spend an hour without hearing traffic or crossing a road or railroad. I think our entire state is the size of some of the national parks/forests out west; finding a trail longer than five miles is difficult.

          (We do occasionally pass the Burkittsville exit when we drive out to Western Maryland, and I always titter and remember all the ridiculous hype that poor little town had to put up with when that movie came out.)
          • I mean really. They could at least have had the grace to go for Kentucky or Pennsylvania or someplace like that. But to have three college students hopelessly lost in Maryland, that's just dumb.
  • As a fan of the supernatural and horror films, I think the best movies are those that are based (at least in some part) in a bit of truth and reality. I tend to truly enjoy and be freaked out by horror movies that have an element of realism and truly make you think about all of those things that go bump in the night. It’s the psychology of the unknown that really gets my blood flowing. Movies such as The Mothman Prophesies, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and even The Amityville Horror to name a few, push my buttons because in some part, real people allegedly experienced the phenomenon depicted in the movies.

    You can imagine the sheer horror and terror that those who experienced these types of things must have felt as they dealt with the unexplainable in their daily lives, usually without much help. That, to me, is truly terrifying. To be facing unseen forces that cannot be explained.

    However, in my opinion, the movie does not have to be based on actual events to be scary, it can also be fiction based around events that could possibly happen. For example, I think two of the better horror movies to come out during the past few years have been Signs and White Noise. Both of these movies have phenomenon that have been reported, UFO’s and E.V.P, and they use these elements of realism to create some scenes that are very freaky and disturbing.

    Basically, what I ask for is a smart and intelligent horror film. Make me think in order to be scared. One of the best things about Signs is that the aliens aren’t revealed until the end, which lets your imagination run wild. Indeed, for a thinking person, cornfields rustling inexplicably in the night is far more terrifying than some jackass wielding a chainsaw.
    • Meryth's icon is special for you 'cause I know how much you love to see his pretty, smiling face. ;)

      I agree with you on the notion of reality-based horror, and I think that it goes--to an extent--hand-in-hand with my idea that one must believe the characters to be real in order to be frightened by what happens to them. If the audience must suspend disbelief to swallow the plot--just as with the characters--I think you're guaranteed that a certain portion of your audience will walk away disappointed.

      There are certain elements--buttons to be pushed, if you will--that will affect certain people. But I think that stories/movies take a chance when they rely solely on that to generate a scare. For example, gruesome/squicky wounding will always push my buttons because of my phobia and the fact that it's hard to sit through such things. (As you know!) But for someone like you, who encounters the reality of such things every day, it is not so likely to have an effect. Likewise, someone with a fear of snakes is going to be terrified of Snakes on a Plane. (You know I had to bring that up! :^D) You and me...we've held snakes and they don't bother us. We'll be in the back row making out and rolling our eyes. ;)

      But I think that when you create either people with whom an audience can empathize to the point where they become that character in a sense and experience his/her horror right alongside him/her (*wishes for a bona fide neuter pronoun right now*) or you create a scenario that the audience can believe is real, then you're far likely to get a scare. When you have both, you get movies like The Exorcist that have been frightening people for decades now because it's hard to walk away without thinking, "Could that happen to me?"

      And I agree with you on the intelligence part too. As much as we love our cheesy horror flicks, I cannot be scared of a movie where the writer honestly believes that DNA can be viewed by a kid's microscope. Or when a guy gets set on fire by a madman because he's too lazy to get his ass up off the ground.
  • Thanks a bunch for posting that! :thumbsup:

    Witch-burning and religious fanaticism are a bit overdone...

    Ahh. You prefer Witch Tartare, then? *Snickers*

    Nor does someone being burned at the stake simply shrivel up, roll her eyes back in her head, and go out like a candle.

    Having read many of the torture-related articles on Wikipedia, I found the "burning at the stake" article to be one of the most fascinating. It describes, in detail, exactly how death occurs (and yeah, it's not quick). I mean, for death to occur, the organs must be severely compromised, and think of what you have to go through first to get to that point...

    Similarly interesting, there was an Elizabethan practise of "hair-burning" whereby oil was rubbed on the arms and then set aflame. Cool, huh? :-P But also, alas, not quick (and nearly always fatal).

    I called this reading binge "therapy", btw.

    ...although lots of kids will credit their fear of clowns to It.

    *Points to Kirsty* :-S
    • Now, surely you know that I'm going to be reading the Wiki article on burning at the stake sometime today? :^D

      I remember watching a movie once and I cannot remember what it was called, but I seem to believe that it was either a low-budget fantasy or made-for-TV that portrayed the most realistic witch-burning I've ever seen. It was pretty horrible...but I applaud them for having the guts to keep it real.

      Was hair-burning done for cosmetic or penal purposes? o.O (I'm hoping not the former, but I wouldn't be surprised!)

      I called this reading binge "therapy", btw.

      Hehe, I understand! Just as I call my darkfic stories with gruesome wounds and other horrible things that I don't generally like to contemplate "therapy" as well. I don't know if it helps, but at least it helps me to think about such things and not take a headfirst trip to the floor!
    • Hair-burning was for penal purposes, and I made a typo when I said it usually was fatal... it wasn't.

      There's a list of torture methods somewhere on Wiki, and it's a lot of "fun" to read through them. There's some pretty sick methods, and then there's others (like water torture) that I still don't "get" why they're so bad. :-/

      Ah yes, here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture#Physical_torture_methods

      "Scaphism" is a particularly interesting one, and I remember finding it in some fiction book way back when I probably shouldn't have been exposed to it yet. :-P I wish now that I could remember what book it was, but of course I can't.
      • Yeah, it's f***ed up certainly how "creative" people can get when it comes to this stuff. Well, given my subject matter in most of my stories, it'll be a handy reference, sadly. ;)

        I remember Bobby telling me of things like "cutting" and such and I would usually ask, "Do I want to know?" and he would give me A Look and say, "No."

        Then, I used to cry when reading articles on PTSD in childhood victims of political violence. It's probably best that I didn't pursue that line of study, though I did really enjoy it. :^/ But I don't think I'm suited for that sort of thing....
    • Oh, and it's interesting to see what's still in use today, like "necklacing" (forcing a rubber tire around someone's body and setting it on fire). That was carried out during the Muslim cartoon riots. O.o
  • I don't know, but I like horror movies that are more subtle better than the splatter stuff. Rosemary's Baby for example may be old, but it's definitely creepy, moreso because it lacks the resolution you've been waiting for all the time; in the end you don't know if it really happened or if Rosemary is simply insane.

    I also madly like Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. The whole atmosphere of the movie, especially in the sequences in Transylvania, is fascinating. I also like how it alludes to so many other old vampire movies. If there's anything I really, really like in a movie, it is allusions to older ones (I have to squee literally every time they show the scenes of Nosferatu in the cinema-sequence of Interview With the Vampire). I only would have wished Coppola would have the Whitby scenes take place in Whitby, and not transferred to London. Because Whitby Abbey is mad ruinous love. ;)

    Atmosphere really does a lot for me. Nothing is better to make mw afraid than creeping fogs and ominous noises. :)
    • Argh. And now I messed up the link to this pretty photo of Whitby Abbey.
    • I agree on atmosphere, and it's something I try to do in my stories, but dangnabit, it's hard! Jump-out-and-go-boo tactics don't work after seeing so many of such movies, and most horror films are so laughable...I really don't know how I remain addicted to the genre. But the rare one that isn't corny, isn't funny, and has a killer atmosphere make it worthwhile, I guess.

      Btw, the picture you link in the next comment is awesome! I had to hit the BACK button quickly before bunnies started crawling out of the ruins!
      • Jump-out-and-go-boo tactics don't work after seeing so many of such movies

        That's so right. It's really "if you know one, you know them all".

        Btw, the picture you link in the next comment is awesome! I had to hit the BACK button quickly before bunnies started crawling out of the ruins!

        Oh, what did I do! But fact is, the abbey is rather beautiful. I think I never really forgave Coppola for excluding the Whitby scenes from his movie. I don't know if you've read Dracula, but a big part of it takes places on a graveyard within sight of the ruins, and to see that in the movie would have been more than great.
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